undertones is a digital exhibit by members of the meta-stasis production team. This exhibit puts a humanistic spin on what it means to review scientific literature. Contributors used dermatology articles published since the 1990s as jumping off points to spark humanistic and critical art and writing. The art and writing featured here engages with problems at the nexus between race, dermatology, cancer, and the algorithmic turn.
In this episode, host Mandy Quan unpacks the disease we refer to as “cancer,” moving beyond its biological etiology to examine instead how it is lived. Mandy and producer Bilal Rehman sit down with MIT Professor Dr. Dwaipayan Banerjee to talk about his recent ethnography, Enduring Cancer: Life, Death, and Diagnosis in Delhi to explore what cancer means to patients in Delhi, India, and beyond.
Emma Cooke, an internal medicine pediatrics resident, reflects on how reading about spirit possession in dybbuk stories has articulated her own experiences in medical school and training. Emma reflects on the gendered performances of knowledge and authority when inhabiting--and refusing--masculine norms.
In this episode, producer Jason Lee explores the history of intersex health in Taiwan that complicates conversations we have around gender, sex, health, and ethics. He focuses on the story of the intersex soldier Xie Jianshun, who was born in Chaozhou, Guangdong and forced to undergo a sex change surgery.
In this episode, producers and longtime friends Juliann Bi and Taylor Phillips reflect on the factors that spurred Taylor’s journey to becoming a doctor. Some of these factors include Taylor's family history and her family member’s experiences of place, race, occupation, and disease. Together, Juliann and Taylor explore Taylor’s relationship from the military to Monsanto to articulate the long-term costs of living in socioeconomic precocity and toxic environments.
In this episode, producer Alicia Leong discusses the scientific and social conditions of sleep paralysis with neuroscientist Brian Sharpless. While the biomedical explanations of and for sleep paralysis may bring some comfort to a disorienting experience, there may be more questions in the deeper subjectivities manifested as nightmares. As Billie Eilish puts it, "When we all fall asleep, where do we go?"
In this episode, we explore how the metaphor of "fighting" cancer stands in cancer research. Where are we in this war? To answer this question, the Metastasis team turned to the history of cancer in a 1997 paper titled "Cancer Undefeated" by statisticians Dr. John Bailar and Dr. Heather Gornik. It turns out that if you take survival rates as a measure for progress against cancer, the results don't show success. Special guests include Dr. Barbara Bailar and guest producer Dr. Melissa Bailar.
In this episode, producer Yesmar Oyarzun interviews Dr. Andrea Murina, a dermatologist at Tulane University School of Medicine. Yesmar explores a current crisis impacting the field of dermatology. Namely, medical students and dermatologists tend to miss even common diseases when they present on people with dark skin. Yesmar and Dr. Murina take us to their shared home state of Louisiana to explore different ways that dermatologists have met with the crisis that a history of neglect has laid before them. What they find, in the end, is that there may be no quick fixes to such structural issues.
Senior producer Yesmar Oyurzun sits down with linguistic anthropologist Dr. Beth Semel to talk about how different technological tools are used in biomedicine. In her own work, Dr. Semel studies how data driven diagnostic techniques are used to screen for stages of mental health, which failed to work. Yesmar and Dr. Semel discuss the relationship between medical diagnostic techniques, race, and data to explore the limits of processing social and embodied complexities into useful information.
In this episode, guest contributors Els Woudstra and Dr. Travis Alexander explore and discuss the life of Audre Lorde, a self-described "Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet." Our guest hosts explore Lorde's breast cancer diagnosis and her activism in the 1980s. Their critical discussion reveals a raw, self-contained, and influential story that continues to challenge the martial narratives ascribed to cancer today.
In this episode, host Katherine Wu interviews Dr. April Carpenter, a physical therapist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. April details the emotional labor that often goes into her work as a physical therapist, such as grappling with patients’ unrealistic expectations for everyday life after treatment. By further reflecting on their own family histories of cancer, Katherine and April discuss what it means to have a good death, and how this should inform medical practice.
In this episode, host Bilal Rehman interviews Dr. Robin Scheffler, historian of the modern biological and biomedical sciences at MIT and author of A Contagious Cause: The American Hunt for Cancer Viruses and the Rise of Molecular Medicine. Bilal explores Scheffler’s studies on the relationship and history between laboratory and legislature in bioscience, relating them to his own experiences with cancer in his family and his community. Particularly, Bilal uses Scheffler’s idea of the “biomedical settlement” to further understand his mother’s lymphoma diagnosis, his current academic interests, and the implications of his career as a physician in the future.
In this episode, host Eddie Jackson interviews Sissy, the partner of their late Uncle Robert. Eddie and Sissy remember Uncle Robert, his struggle with cancer, and how he remained caring and considerate, even on his deathbed. Eddie also learns about Sissy’s own cancer diagnosis and the family’s broader relationship with the disease. Recounting this personal, familial history leads Eddie to reflect on their roots and their decision to pursue medicine.
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